Brindala -- Los Angeles -- J.S. Jayaram, M.D. -- Success and Peace from Holistic Living
Menu -- Writing

Article LXVIII: The Mind, Intellect, and Self

The classic Vedantic analogy of the chariot is expanded upon in these verses of the Katha Upanishad. Arjuna's chariot in the Mahabharatha is meant to represent the same. This chariot analogy represents different layers of maya and the Self. The analogy also alludes to using the mind and intellect as tools to approach enlightenment. In Vedanta, the mind (manas) is the sensory faculty, whereas the intellect (buddhi) is the discriminatory faculty. In the analogy, the chariot represents the body, the reins represent the mind, and the charioteer represents the intellect. The mind (reins) receives input from the senses (horses) which interact with the sense objects (the roads). The intellect (charioteer) controls the mind (reins) and determines appropriate action. The body (chariot), mind (reins), and intellect (charioteer) are all layers of maya that cover the Self (the master of the chariot). However, only by aligning the senses (horses) with the body (chariot), mind (reins), intellect (charioteer), can one approach enlightenment (move forward). When the senses (horses) are uncontrolled, one cannot approach enlightenment (the chariot cannot move forward). However, by controlling the senses (horses), one can approach enlightenment (the chariot is able to move forward).

By utilizing the intellect to discriminate the sensory input of the mind, one can restrain the mind and control the senses. Only with such control of the mind and the balance of the senses, can one move forward on the path to enlightenment. Therefore, one should not be controlled by the sense objects of the world, but instead one should recognize the transience of worldly happiness and maya. The intellect can allow one to discriminate between the transient sensory happiness and the eternal bliss of enlightenment. And the intellect is guided by the Self within to orient to the Divine and follow the righteous path of action.

Hence, one needs to follow that Self within to allow the intellect to find Truth in every action and experience. Devotion (bhakti yoga), knowledge (jnana yoga), and selfless action (karma yoga) are all ways to approach the ultimate Truth. By gradually incorporating more of these and other approaches in each action and experience of our lives, we can approach enlightenment. Every small effort can improve the ascent to enlightenment, and with each step toward enlightenment, our lives can become more and more blissful. Although we may not be able to experience enlightenment immediately, each step brings us closer, and can gradually give us nearer and nearer experiences to that ultimate bliss.


Katha Upanishad

The context of this scripture is a dialogue between Naciketas, a spiritual aspirant, and Yama, the god of death:

III.1: There are two in the world who have entered into intelligence in the supreme cavity of heart, enjoying the results of the good deeds. The knowers of Brahman call them as light and shade; likewise also (say) those householders who perform the Naciketa sacrifice three times.
III.2: We are capable of performing the Naciketas sacrifice which is the bridge for the sacrificers, and (also we can know) the imperishable Supreme Brahman which is the bourn free from fear for those who want to be emancipated.
III.3: Know that the soul is the master of the chariot who sits within it, and the body is the chariot. Consider the intellect as the charioteer and the mind as the rein.
III.4: The senses, they say are the horses, and their roads are the sense objects. The wise call Him the enjoyer (when He is) united with the body, the senses and the mind.
III.5: If one is always of unrestrained mind and devoid of right understanding, his senses become uncontrollable like the wicked horses of a charioteer.
III.6: But he who is always of restrained mind and has right understanding, his senses are controllable like the good horses of a charioteer.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
Home About Treatment Appointment Payment Writing FAQ Contact